I have been reading a fantasy novel. I stumbled upon the phrase "have one's hair up about something". Below I quoted the sentence in context. I have done quite some searching, but so far all has been in vain. I can only guess it means being utterly annoyed by something. Can someone tell me if this truly is an idiom and what it means?

And I warn you, I shall be compensated dearly if any of my property is missing or damaged!” He turned on his heel and stormed out the doors. “He’s got his hair up about this one,” chuckled Fen

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    I don't think it's a common idiom. I have heard, frequently, "Have one's back up" (aggressive, or aggressively defensive, like a cat) and "Have a hair across one's ass" (incredibly bothered or annoyed).
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 12, 2016 at 13:04
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    It made me think of the expression make someone's hair stand on end which means "to cause someone to be very frightened". But that doesn't seem to be the likely meaning here?
    – TrevorD
    Jun 12, 2016 at 13:10
  • @TrevorD No, in this context, it clear welt means something like "he's on the warpath". But I've never heard the phrase before.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 12, 2016 at 13:15
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    The earliest written instance I can find is this from 1964. It's not common, but my guess is it derives from tear one's hair out = be very angry, leading to Keep your hair on! = Relax! Calm down! as covered by that earlier ELU question (better known to me as Keep your shirt on!). Jun 12, 2016 at 13:15
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    It's a variation on get one's hackles up.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 12, 2016 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


The expression is a variation of "get one's hackles up", referring to the raised appearance of the hair on the back of a dog when angered.

get one's hackles up: to become tense with anger; bristle

Hackles refers to the erectile hairs along the back of the neck of an animal, especially of a dog.

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